Even before the start of this past NBA season, fans knew how big of an off-season 2019 was going to be. The five biggest names on the market gave us what we like to call “The 5 K’s”. Kemba Walker, Klay Thompson, Kyrie Irving, Kevin Durant, and Kawahi Leonard. These superstar athletes had big decisions to make deciding their future and, with the amount of money on the line, the future of generations to come. Now that they’ve all made their decision, we take a look at their off season journey.
Klay Thompson’s future was probably the easiest of the five to figure out. He has been a vital part of the winning culture for the Warriors and has shown tremendous value. Thompson is one of the greatest shooters of all time, considered one of the best 3 and D players in the league. After suffering an injury to his ACL during the NBA Finals, his fate was in question because of the number of games he is expected to miss next season. Despite his injury, Thompson deserved the max contract deal from the Warriors, and that is what he got- 5 years, 190 million dollars. The Warriors have faith that he will return from injury and still be the razor sharpshooter he is known to be.
After being drafted by the Hornets in 2011, Kemba Walker slowly emerged as a star in the league. The New York native razzled and dazzled Charlotte fans with his handles and scoring ability. Despite his individual success, the Hornets have only made the playoffs twice since his arrival. A player of his caliber needs not only a big market but a solid front office with a great fan base. Hence his decision to sign a 4-year $141 million deal with the Boston Celtics. This is a big break for Kemba because the Celtics are an improvement for him in almost every category. It is now up to him to lead them to the NBA Finals.
Next, we must talk about Kyrie Irving because Kemba just signed with his former team. Upon his initial seasons with the Celtics, Irving’s relationship with Boston seemed promising. With young talents like Jayson Tatum and Jaylen Brown, the Celtics made it to the Eastern Conference Finals back to back years. This season, it was evidence that Irving found it difficult to lead after showing signs of frustration with teammates multiple times on the bench and reaching out to his former teammate LeBron James to apologize for his immature behavior when they were together. He too signed a 4-year $141 million dollar deal, but he’s taking his talents to Brooklyn to play for the Nets. Irving grew up a Nets fan and has made it clear for months that this is where he wants to be.
Kevin Durant is recognized around the world as arguably the best player in the NBA. After winning Finals MVP back to back, he solidified his name as one of the greats, being on a short list of players that are 7 feet tall with handles and an automatic jump shot. Despite his success in Golden State, Kevin Durant wanted out due to a number of reasons reported by his camp. One being stuck in the shadow of Steph Curry. The fan base and front office of the Warriors made it clear that Steph Curry is their guy; he has been a Warrior since he was drafted and is the face of their franchise.
During the NBA Finals, Durant tore his Achilles, this occurred after it was reported that he was sidelined for tearing his calf earlier in the playoffs. This incident didn’t bode well with the superstar because of disagreements inside the locker room on whether or not he was 100% dedicated to the team. Rumors of KD playing for the Knicks trended all over social media, and it was almost a done deal if not for the fact that KD and Kyrie wanted to play with each other. So KD signed a 4-year $164 million deal with the Brooklyn Nets, and the two superstars have joined forces making basketball relevant again in New York.
Out of all the free agents this summer, Kawhi Leonard is the one player the world really had no clue where he was going to end up. After being traded to the Toronto Raptors just a season ago, he found himself on the market again. Leonard is coming off winning NBA Finals MVP after defeating the Golden State Warriors in 6 games. Leonard, known for his quiet persona, kept his decision private to the media. Many were under the assumption that he would either re-sign with the Raptors or team up with King James on the Lakers, but of course, he found a way to surprise us all. Leonard signed a 4-year $142 million dollar max contract with the Los Angeles Clippers, which came as a shock to the league especially because he found a way to get Paul George traded to the Clippers. Now the duo will join a young defensive core in pursuit of an NBA title.
Needless to say, the NBA will not look the same next season. The depletion of the Warriors along with the distribution of power throughout the league looks promising for NBA fans. It’s amazing to see the 5 K’s make power moves that will have reshaped the NBA as we know it. The hunt for the Larry O’Brien trophy has gotten more intense. NBA Fans, hold on to your chairs.